Imagination does not breed insanity…

If you only read one book by Chesterton – well then shame on you – but if you only read one book by Chesterton, it has to be Orthodoxy. – Dale Ahlquist, Lecture 12: Orthodoxy

“Let us begin, then, with the mad-house; from this evil and fantastic inn let us set forth on our intellectual journey. Now, if we are to glance at the philosophy of sanity, the first thing to do in the matter is to blot out one big and common mistake. There is a notion adrift everywhere that imagination, especially mystical imagination, is dangerous to man’s mental balance. Poets are commonly spoken of as psychologically unreliable; and generally there is a vague association between wreathing laurels in your hair and sticking straws in it. Facts and history utterly contradict this view. Most of the very great poets have been not only sane, but extremely business-like; and if Shakespeare ever really held horses, it was because he was much the safest man to hold them. Imagination does not breed insanity. Exactly what does breed insanity is reason. Poets do not go mad; but chess-players do. Mathematicians go mad, and cashiers; but creative artists very seldom. I am not, as will be seen, in any sense attacking logic: I only say that this danger does lie in logic, not in imagination.”

-G. K. Chesterton, The Maniac, Orthodoxy, 1908

Read more of this chapter online: The Maniac, Orthodoxy

Read the lecture: Orthodoxy ( Ahlquist )

Video source: Gene Wilder singing “Pure Imagination” from the film Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory

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